24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: The Beaver

What does 'The Beaver's' performance say about Mel Gibson's popularity?

May 9, 2011 |  7:30 am


Critics were mixed on Mel Gibson's "The Beaver" at the start of the weekend — some found it a touching story of mental disassociation; others an ill-fitting mix of the quirky and the dour. Lovers and haters agreed, however, that they sometimes found it difficult to separate the star's on-screen issues from his real-life ones.

As it turns out, viewers had the same problem — that is, if they even bothered to see the film.

Gibson's turn as a depressed toy executive who turns to a puppet for help this weekend took in a dismal $104,000 on 22 screens, a per-screen average of under $5,000. To put that in lay terms, that means that in the markets the Jodie Foster film opened, very few people came out to see it To put that in other lay terms, the average was lower than that for the recent opening of "Atlas Shrugged," a movie so unpopular it prompted its producer to contemplate retirement.(For those who might wonder if the figures are misleading because "The Beaver" opened in only a limited number of theaters, the per-screen metric accounts for that; it's essentially a measure of a movie's box-office power adjusted for the size of its release.)

On Sunday, studio Summit was, interestingly, pointing the finger at its film more than its star. Domestic-distribution president Richie Fay told my colleague Amy Kaufman that he didn't think the results were "as much a repudiation of Mel and his personal life as it is about a film with difficult subject matter” and suggested that a planned expansion later in the month may be more limited than previously thought. “As it turns out, I think the film is more of an art-house specialty kind of movie than a broader commercial film,” he said.

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Cannes 2011: Auteurs, veterans and controversy?

April 14, 2011 |  3:55 am



The Cannes Film Festival announced its full lineup in the wee hours of Thursday morning. The big news from a cineaste standpoint: the presence in the competition category of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," which has been rumored for many a festival before finally being ready for this one; the new film from Pedro Almodovar, "The Skin I Live In," a revenge tale featuring a plastic surgeon; and the latest from the Dardenne Brothers, the Belgian dynamic duo that's already won the Palme d'Or twice. (The full story about the lineup on our sister blog Awards Tracker.)

Big-studio Hollywood will also be a robust participant this year: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Kung-Fu Panda 2" will both screen out of competition as part of their promotional rollout.

Not screening: "The Descendants," the new film from Alexander Payne starring George Clooney (a December release, it will likely go the fall-festival route) and "A Dangerous Method," David Cronenberg's foray into the land of Freud and Jung.

But perhaps the most newsworthy developments could happen away from both the big marketing and big prize-seeking realms. Several films have the potential to generate strong reactions.

The always-voluble Lars von Trier, who two years ago created a stir with his violent and explicit "Antichrist," returns with a science-fiction-themed film, "Melancholia," that features American stars Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland. And Jodie Foster's "The Beaver" will screen out-of-competition as well, raising the question of whether Mel Gibson, still embraced in some parts of Europe, will use the festival as the first leg of a comeback tour. Whether it's courting cinephiles or controversy, Cannes almost certainly won't be boring.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "The Beaver." Credit: Summit Entertainment


Awards Tracker: Cannes lineup shows Malick, Almodovar and The Beaver

The Beaver goes back into the woods

First footage of Tree of Life exceeds expectations

What effect will Mel Gibson's no-contest plea have on 'The Beaver' publicity campaign?

March 9, 2011 | 10:36 pm


Mel Gibson's expected no-contest plea to a misdemeanor charge in a domestic battery case involving ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva may put an end to the Gibson legal circus, at least for a little while. But for moviedom, there's a more specific question: How will the burst of publicity, coming just before the world premiere of "The Beaver" at SXSW next week, affect the film's all-important first public screening?

On Wednesday, a law enforcement official told The Times that Gibson is expected to plead no contest to a charge that he struck Grigorieva, likely resulting only in probation and counseling, but no jail time.  Gibson's attorney later told our sister blog L.A. Now that the actor would enter the plea out of concern for his children.

"Mel's priority throughout all of this has been that the best interests of his young daughter Lucia and the rest of his children be put first in any decisions made," attorney Blair Berk said in a statement. "It is with only that in mind that he asked me to approach the District Attorney with a proposal that would bring all of this to an immediate end."

A spokeswoman for "The Beaver" said Wednesday that plans for the film's premiere a week from now in Austin, Texas, remain unchanged.

Gibson has faced such a barrage of media criticism that the legal development won't necessarily cast a  much larger spotlight on the actor when Summit Entertainment unveils the Jodie Foster film.

Then again, it puts the actor back in the news for his personal life at a time when the studio is trying to keep the focus on the film. And it doesn't put the issue to rest either; prosecutors are, of course, still considering potential extortion charges against Grigorieva.

More next week from The Times and 24 Frames on the Gibson saga as it moves from the courtroom to a screening room.

-- Steven Zeitchik




L.A. Now: Mel Gibson expected to plead guilty to misdemeanor count of domestic violence

The Hollywood wagons circle Mel Gibson

The Beaver goes back into the woods

Photo: Mel Gibson in "The Beaver." Credit: Summit Entertainment

'The Beaver' goes back into the woods

February 7, 2011 |  6:00 pm

What a strange, furry situation. After finally landing a release date, "The Beaver" has been pushed back.

Nearly two months ago, Summit Entertainment set March 23 as the limited-release date for the Jodie Foster-Mel Gibson drama, with a wide release to follow on April 8.

But the studio said Monday it was moving back the release date for the movie, in which Gibson plays a man with depression, by about six weeks. The film will now come out on May 6 in limited release and expand on May 20, a date that also happens to mark the opening of Johnny Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." After the U.S. opening, it will roll out internationally.

The film will keep its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival next month, festival organizers said.

After several stops and starts in development, the independent film's fate was thrown into question last summer when recordings surfaced apparently of Gibson making abusive phone calls to ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. Summit decided not to release the movie, which was completed, in the fall and waited until nearly the end of the year before announcing the March-April rollout. The movie then played for select media in Los Angeles and New York.

When Summit did announce a release date two months ago, questions arose about whether Gibson's public image would have recovered sufficiently by the time the movie hit theaters to allow for promotion of a film in which he stars; it also raised the issue of how much promotion he could or would do himself. A Summit spokesman confirmed the date change but declined to comment further.

The new date allows for more dust to settle on the Gibson affair -- and according to one person familiar with the studio's plans who asked not to be identified, might allow more buzz to build out of SXSW. But  it also pushes the movie into a period crowded with films that appeal to broad audiences. In addition to "Pirates," the superhero movie "Thor" (May 6) the female-oriented comedy "Bridesmaids (May 13), the male buddy-comedy "The Hangover 2" (May 26) as well as the art-house title "The Tree of Life" (May 27) all come out in that month.

There's also another furry creature making a play for audience affections when "Kung Fu Panda 2" comes out on May 26. Yes, it's all a bit of a zoo.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "The Beaver." Credit: Summit Entertainment


'The Beaver' is coming to SXSW--but will Mel Gibson?

Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver' will wag its tail in March



Seven intriguing movie storylines for 2011

January 3, 2011 |  5:30 am

January brings New Year's resolutions, holiday hangovers and, apparently, a lot of "The Dilemma" commercials. Although the Vince Vaughn vehicle isn't a huge storyline in moviedom, there are a number of narratives in and around the film world set to unfold in the coming months. Here are a baker's half-dozen to keep an eye on.

The "Twilight" crowd, the morning after: They've branched out into other roles before. But 2011 will bring moments of truth for all three lead actors in the "Twilight" franchise: Robert Pattinson in the period circus drama "Water for Elephants" (coming in April), Taylor Lautner in the teen fugitive thriller "Abduction" (coming in September) and Kristen Stewart in the adaptation of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" (date TBD). The last two movies in the franchise that made them famous are shooting now. Which of the trio can fashion the most productive post-Forks career?

The Battle of the Greens: When footage of Seth Rogen's comedic "The Green Hornet" screened at Comic-Con last summer, it drew a tepid response, paling in comparison to Ryan Reynolds' more muscular "The Green Lantern." But in the last two months, the tide has turned: The Rogen movie, coming out later this month, is testing well, and the trailer for the springtime Reynolds movie elicited some perplexed reactions. Is there room for two green superheroes? Or will only one of the films take the ring?

Reboot Redux: We've seen a fair number of reboots already, but 2011 will bring a slew of them: a new "Planet of the Apes," a new "Smurfs" movie, a new "Conan the Barbarian." Some say enough with the rummage sale, but reboots like "Star Trek" and "The Karate Kid" have performed well. Can the streak continue?

"The Hangover" hangover? It was one of the biggest surprises of 2009. But the sequel has been filled with more hiccups than a Bjorn-held baby. First there was a fracas over the casting, and then non-casting, of Mel Gibson. Then came the news last month of a serious injury to a stunt man. Can Todd Phillips successfully take his endearingly ragtag group of man-children from Vegas to Thailand, or would he have better luck at the Bally's craps table?

A tree grows in Malick-ville: Rarely does a movie not based on a comic book generate this much advance hype. But more than four months ahead of the release of "The Tree of Life," the buzz is already nearing crescendo levels for Terrence Malick's long-developing autobiographical epic. Will it live up to the standards of the director's "Badlands" and "Days of Heaven?" Or will its meditative tone make even "The New World" seem like a potboiler?

How super "Super 8"? With J.J. Abrams writing and directing and Steven Spielberg producing, it's one of the most high-profile collaborations in modern commercial fimmaking. It's also one of the most secretive. The 1979-set film, scheduled for a June release, may or may not be about an alien invasion, supernatural occurrences or any of another number of phenomena. Is it the second coming of "Star Trek" or a marketing idea in search of a story?

Beavering: It was a much-ballyhooed story long before a trailer was even released. The story will only heat up as the months become weeks for the release of "The Beaver," the first Mel Gibson movie to come out since he allegedly verbally abused ex-lover Oksana Grigorieva, and one with some additional challenges given its beaver-puppet themes. Will the actor turn out to do publicity? And will the public forgive him if he does?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "The Beaver." Credit: Summit Entertainment


Did the Green Hornet break out of movie jail?

Does the new Green Lantern trailer actually hurt the movie's advance word?

"Water for Elephants": Can Mel Gibson perform under the big top?

Mel Gibson's "The Beaver" will wag its tail in March

Dating of Mel Gibson's "The Beaver" ferrets out more questions


Winona Ryder's comments make things hairier for Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver'

December 16, 2010 |  2:53 pm


There's only 14 weeks to go before the release of Mel Gibson's "The Beaver," and the film's publicity problems keep mounting.

In the new issue of GQ magazine, “Black Swan” co-star Winona Ryder recounts a moment sure to make Gibson’s publicity team (and plenty of others) cringe.

"I remember, like, 15 years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties,” Ryder tells the magazine. “And he was really drunk. I was with my friend, who's gay. He made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about 'oven dodgers,' but I didn't get it. I'd never heard that before. It was just this weird, weird moment. I was like, 'He's anti-Semitic and he's homophobic.' No one believed me!”

Even if Ryder’s eye-popper doesn’t shake loose any other Gibson stories, a conventional media roll-out for the movie could prove tricky at best. Then again, Ryder’s story does indicate that Gibson was intoxicated, so maybe alcohol could again play the villain, as it did after he was stopped for driving under the influence in Malibu in 2006.

There’s always an angle.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "Edge of Darkness." Credit: Warner Bros.


Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver' will wag its tail in March

Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver' will wag its tail in March

December 15, 2010 |  5:54 pm


"The Beaver," in which Mel Gibson plays a clinically depressed man who wears an animal puppet on his hand, has been given a release date by studio Summit Entertainment: The movie will hit select theaters March 23 before opening nationwide April 8.

Interestingly, the decision to open the movie in limited release suggests Summit believes the film is strong enough to build some positive word of mouth (or it just wants to spread out the adverse Gibson publicity). The March 23 date happens to be the second weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, so we imagine Summit isn't hoping to hit a lot of older men.

There's also a possible play at the Berlin Film Festival, though no official word on that yet.

Still a lot of unanswered questions, like how much Gibson will promote the movie on U.S. television, which networks will pursue him and whether he'll try to do something Diane Sawyer-ish first. Either way, it's only about 14 weeks until Mel is back on the big screen.

-- Steven Zeitchik


 Photo: Mel Gibson in "The Beaver." Credit: Summit Entertainment

Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver:' Is it fish or fowl? [trailer video]

December 3, 2010 |  9:45 pm

In at least one theater in Los Angeles on Friday night, the trailer for Mel Gibson’s “The Beaver” played in front of “Black Swan” -- which, given that the trailer for Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” also played in front of the film, makes for one seriously weird triple bill.

The late night-jokes write themselves for the new Gibson trailer, what with lines about the character played by the actor (of course the subject of allegations of domestic violence and racial slurs) needing to put "some psychological distance between himself and the negative aspects of his personality."

But the real issue for "The Beaver," a spring release about a depressed father who wears a puppet on his hand to overcome his problems, is: Does it work as a piece of movie marketing?


Anyone worrying that the whimsy would be washed out of Kyle Killen's script doesn't have much to fear -- the very idea of a puppet who sounds like Michael Caine and speaks on Mel Gibson's behalf takes care of the quirky quotient.

But otherwise the tone for the film, directed by Jodie Foster, seems askew. Is this an uplifting family drama? A midlife-crisis comedy? A bigger budget "Lars & the Real Girl?" For a movie that's always come with questions about its delicate tonal mix, the trailer doesn't exactly answer them.

Plus there is that pesky Gibson question. We suppose the campaign could play the Gibson card for sympathy, turning him into a patient instead of an aggressor ("the successful and loving family man he used to be has gone missing," as the trailer sets out). But it won't be easy: The jokes about a man looking to a beaver puppet to save his life -- let alone a man named Mel Gibson -- write themselves.

Watch and tell us what you think.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Dating of Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver' ferrets out more questions

December 2, 2010 |  5:36 pm

Mel Gibson will be back on the big screen sooner than many of us thought. A spokesman for Summit Entertainment confirmed Thursday afternoon that the studio will be releasing his quirky dramedy "The Beaver" this spring.

There's no specific date yet, but a person familiar with release plans who spoke on condition of  anonymity because they had not been authorized to talk about those plans publicly said that an April weekend was being considered. The movie will not be a last-minute entrant into the Sundance Film Festival, according to the source, who at the same time wouldn't rule out other festivals. (The Berlin Film Festival takes place in early February and would be a logical platform, particularly given a likely late-winter and early-spring release by distributors in several international territories.)

The tentative scheduling closes one chapter for the Jodie Foster-directed film, in which Gibson plays a lonely man whose best friend  is a beaver puppet he wears on his hand (he talks to him and treats him like a real person). But the news also opens another, possibly more complicated chapter.

It's far from certain that the fallout from Gibson's rants at ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva will have blown over by spring, or somehow be less toxic than they would have been had the movie come out in its initial target season of this fall -- especially given that Gibson's custody battle rages on, as does the possibility that criminal charges could still be filed against the actor. (Certainly "Hangover 2" director Todd Phillips was not, in the final analysis, convinced, and dropped the idea of having Gibson do a cameo in that movie.) Is Summit counting on a sea change in public opinion, or is it simply dumping the movie in the U.S. shortly after it comes out in some international territories?

Also still murky -- and less talked-about in the Mel pell-mell -- is the quality of the film itself. The movie has been the subject of numerous Hollywood whispers about tension on set, and a source close to the production described intense jockeying between producer Steve Golin and Foster, as well as a number of reshoots. (Incidentally, the movie, based on a beloved script from "Lone Star" creator Kyle Killen, was troubled from the start. Numerous directors as well as stars including Steve Carell and Hugh Jackman flirted with it before Foster joined and persuaded producers that Gibson was their man even though, in his mid-50s, the actor was a good decade older than the character as he was written.)

Either way, nothing is set in stone. A trailer debuts Friday night. If it doesn't fly -- or if Mel's stock continues to sink -- don't be surprised if "The Beaver" moves again.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "Edge of Darkness." Credit: Warner Bros.


Mel Gibson and the beaver problem

Will Mel Gibson cast a shadow over 'Hangover 2'?



Mel Gibson and 'The Beaver' problem

July 1, 2010 |  5:06 pm

Mel Gibson appears to be in a pool of hot water after Radar and other outlets reported that he invoked the  the N-word in verbally abusing girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, and saying, "You look like a ... pig in heat," among other morally unsavory things.

Those comments, if true, pose serious image issues for a man whose career has already been bedeviled by them. And this time the stakes are higher, affecting a swath of Hollywood interests.

When the last scandal involving Gibson's alleged bigotry broke back in 2006 (the infamous incident on the Malibu highway),  Gibson had a directorial movie waiting in the wings, "Apocalypto," but was not starring in any upcoming film. This is a different instance. Gibson is the lead in a movie called "The Beaver," a quirky indie that has been the passion project for many in the Hollywood film community for a long time.

After more than a year of false starts, producer Anonymous Content had put the financing together to make the movie last year, and "Twilight" studio Summit had come aboard just before the start of production to distribute the film. The company had planned on a release later this year, with a likely rollout at a number of the fall film festivals.


If these comments prove to be true -- and again, a strong qualifier here that reporters at this paper are still, as of posting time, seeking firsthand confirmation -- then it's not only Gibson who's in trouble, but the film itself.

"The Beaver" was perceived as a risk even before Gibson came on -- this is a script, after all, in which a loner man talks to a beaver puppet on his hand as though it's a human entity. Gibson's casting was seen as a challenge in part because of his age -- the character was originally written as in his 40s (earlier iterations of the film package alternately had Steve Carell, Hugh Jackman and Jim Carrey interested or attached to the project). But Jodie Foster, who had a professional relationship with Gibson, was packaged with Gibson as the star, in an iteration that would have her directing and co-starring.

Gibson was already seen as a box-office question mark for "Beaver" after his acting comeback, "Edge of Darkness," grossed just $43 million in the U.S. earlier this year. And any project in development -- including a Viking movie he might have directed -- probably will go into deep freeze.

But it gets even, um, hairier for "The Beaver." There will always be talk about building a campaign around someone other than Gibson. But that won't work. Gibson is the star of the film. You can't hide him. And putting out any marketing material with Gibson's face and the words "The Beaver" underneath would be such a laughably bad idea that it would make the Tom Cruise "Valkyrie" eye patch seem like a smart idea.

There's a silver lining for Summit in that, at the very least, the company hasn't spent any money yet marketing the film.  But for film fans who were waiting to see "The Beaver," they may be waiting a long time.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "Edge of Darkness." Credit: Warner Bros.


Mel Gibson's outrageous new rant: Is it time for anger management?

Mel Gibson hurls the N-word and more in rants taped by Oksana Grigorieva

Mel Gibson: The shadow in his smile

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